Hail To The Deadites


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Hail To The Deadites
"It's effective in capturing the passion of the fans and is likely to become a treasured collectible itself." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

The brilliant, innovative camerawork. The spectacular effects work. The lashings of gore. The chainsaw. The chin. It's easy to see why the Evil Dead films were such a hit - indeed, why people enjoy them to this day. For some, however, this enjoyment goes beyond simply watching them again from time to time, and becomes a way of life. Welcome to the world of the Deadites.

Visiting Evil Dead conventions, interviewing some of the stars of the films and meeting dedicated fans, Steve Villeneuve's documentary gives us a glimpse into what Ashy Slashy actually let loose upon the world when he opened that legendary book. It has a lot going on emotionally for a documentary - romance, tragedy and the pursuit of long-cherished dreams, not to mention the story of Bruce Campbell meeting his doppelgänger - but it's the way Villeneuve weaves these things together that really matters, creating a portrait of a community. Although it's the films that have brought these people together, it's clear that what they have has evolved far beyond that, and it's something that you won't need to collect action figures or plaster your room with posters to understand.

Though he never presents himself as an insider, Villeneuve slips easily into this community space and the interviews he gets are open and warm. He teases out the intersection between stardom and fandom, looking at the origins of the Evil Dead Museum and the way the teenagers who made the original film felt when suddenly drawn into celebrity circles, with Campbell discussing his excitement about first meeting William Shatner. Something of the spirit of conventions is captured when we move beyond the stalls and signings to see a lookalike competition and a fan-produce musical take on the first film.

Material from fan films, rather than the originals, is used where it's necessary to remind the audience of plot points, adding to the grassroots appeal of the film. It's fascinating to learn that the original cabin in the woods is still standing, though it looks unsafe now for a new reason, collapsed at one side, and it's kind of a shame that people are taking trophies from it.

The film is too slow in places, dragging out stories for sentimental reasons when there really isn't enough material to tell them well, but it's effective in capturing the passion of the fans and is likely to become a treasured collectible itself if it makes it onto DVD. It got off to a good start with a screening at Fantasia 2020.

It was fan pressure, of course, that led to the resurrection of the franchise in the form of TV series Ash Vs Evil Dead. Made just beforehand, this film obliquely captures the movement that led to that, and Campbell, speaking at the end, is clearly delighted. There's quite a bit of material strung through the credits, including updates on the fans we've met (some of which will not surprise you very much), so don't walk away too soon - even if you find yourself desperate to get back to Sam Raimi's work.

Reviewed on: 18 Aug 2020
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Hail To The Deadites packshot
A documentary about fans of the Evil Dead films.

Director: Steve Villeneuve

Writer: Steve Villeneuve

Starring: Patricia Tallman, Ellen Sandweiss, Kassie Wesley DePaiva, Dan Hicks, Betsy Baker

Year: 2020

Runtime: 79 minutes

Country: Canada

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